Opinionista Wayne Duvenage 20 November 2017

ANN7’s departure would be another win for civil society

Calls from the public and sections of civil society for DStv to sever the cord that supplies ANN7 with sufficient oxygen to propagate its biased agenda should not be seen as a desire to limit the freedom of speech or association, but rather an objection against corruption that feeds the engine room of their paymaster’s agenda.

Propaganda and agendas with a bent towards the views expressed by the owner of a media house will always direct the narrative that emanates from any news and information platform. However, should these views and opinions or the general content stray too far from the belief and reality according to the general public, free market forces will discharge the demise of those outlets peddling the hogwash of their skewed agendas. The dwindling viewership would normally shove the media house onto the uneconomical scrap heap.

But the case related to ANN7 and its print media sister (The New Age newspaper) is not a normal one. Free market forces were not at play, as a disproportionate amount of government advertising allocations were directed to this low-following and declining media house, to prop up the Zuma/Gupta propaganda machine. The use and abuse of the Government Communications and Information System (GCIS), plus state institutions like SAA, SABC, Eskom and others to feed into their agenda was blatant and atrocious. Without this uncalled for support, ANN7 and The New Age would more than likely not be around today.

How are we to accept this conduct as being freedom of choice? Of course one can argue that people have the ability to ignore the channel or not purchase the newspapers, but that’s not the point. The point is that no taxpayers’ funds should be used or channelled to prop up privately owned companies. Making matters worse, I believe that more complaints have been laid against ANN7’s poor quality and biased reporting than any other news channel in the past few years. Adding fuel to the fire is their driving an agenda for a corrupt family and its links to our president who is strongly implicated in many documents that support the State Capture problem in South Africa.

Civil society should not be taken for fools. They understand the need for an uncensored media, a free media that shares all sides of the story and even possibly a healthy degree of bias in reporting from time to time. But the blatant arrogance and conduct of media houses linked to a corrupt family, one that has influenced the nation’s president and siphoned billions of taxpayers’ money off-shore, is not press freedom. It’s like being the driver of the getaway car in the bank robbery scene. Yes, he may be able to innocently claim no knowledge of what was going down at the crime scene, but they are part of the problem, even if they are driving the perpetrators from the scene of the crime in a tatty, rusty car.

The problematic decision to be made, however, lies with MultiChoice as they ponder on what they can and cannot tell the public and their subscribers, before too much damage is done. The extent of their hate-mail is rising by the day, as are the number of cancelled subscriptions. It’s what we’ve come to know in South Africa as the Bell Pottinger scenario, where the public and civil society organisations have the power to eventually bring the matter to a head, despite the valid questions of morality and freedom of association rules that ought to apply under normal circumstances.

There is nothing normal about the rules to be applied when fighting corruption in South Africa. The normal rules of business are not in play here, and the enormity of weight against the people by an unruly connected element of government officials who controls the taxpayers’ purse strings has become too much to swallow. So when civil society’s actions take liberties and push the “freedom of speech” envelope to the edge, they do so by rightfully adding, “but not at the expense of my hard-earned taxes”, especially when the media house lays on thick, the unashamed and tasty sauce of biased reporting.

Make the call now, DStv, before it’s too late and your subscribers make it for you. DM


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